The Board of Trustees for Calvin Theological Seminary has agreed to a proposal to launch, likely this fall, "The Institute for Global Church Planting and Renewal" (IGCPR) at the seminary.
The primary focus of this institute will be to train men and women to start new churches and to work to renew those churches that are struggling. Many of these churches are likely to be multi-cultural, especially in large urban centers, and will be planted in North America and worldwide.
"We see this as a Kairos moment for the seminary," says Carl Bosma, professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and one of the people who has supported and sought approval for the new institute.
"This will likely present a significant shift for us. Seminaries don't typically produce church planters. There are very few seminaries that have an institute like this that will be integrated into the curriculum," says Bosma.
"We are looking to make the curriculum more missional. We are looking at reshaping theological education," at the same time maintaining CTS's strong emphasis on teaching Reformed doctrine, worship and biblical scholarship, he says.
Besides using the resources available at CTS, such as the Center for Excellence in Preaching, the institute will draw on the resources and expertise of Calvin College educators, as well as the many institutes and networks available there.
For instance, it will involve itself and be active in the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship and the Meeter Center "through joint, cooperative, and parallel programs," according to the document approved by the Calvin Seminary BOT.
Also part of the program will work to forge relationships with a range of educational institutions, as well as placing a greater emphasis, than is now in place, on long-distance, online learning. An aspect of the institute will be to take students to where successful church planters are at work and to learn from them in the community in which they work.
"The vision of the (IGCPR) is to foster the growth of confessionally Reformed-Presbyterian-churches both numerically and spiritually across the globe through an effective … apprenticeship program," says the document approved by the BOT.
A long-time missionary to Brazil, where he helped to start many new churches and revitalize others, Bosma says they want to develop and nurture through training the expectation among churches that it is part of their mission to evangelize the community around them and to start new churches.
A main idea behind the institute, he says, is that there are so many people "dying to hear the gospel, but there are so few people to tell them about it," says Bosma. The idea is to tap into the hunger that many people have for a relationship with God, but they need help in developing and maintaining that relationship.
"We want to shift the culture of the church. That is the challenge,” says Bosma. "But we believe that you've got to make the church more missional. We need to teach the basic principles of planting churches for the next generation."